John read the first book in the Joshua Dread series last year and loved it so much that I read it too. I can’t even begin to attempt to read everything he does. (Not if I want to read anything outside the fantasy genre or if I want to have time to do things like, you know, eat.) But he’s at an age where it’s fun to share books. We read the same things as read-alouds or for school but those are all books I pick. It’s interesting to sometimes read a book that he picked.
Joshua Dread: The Nameless Hero is a good solid sequel to what was a really fun middle grade fantasy book. The twist in these books is that Joshua is a boy who is just discovering and learning how to control his own superpowers but whose parents make up The Dread Duo, a team of super-villians. Complicating matters is the fact that one of Joshua’s best friends, Sophie, is the daughter of Captain Justice, arch-nemesis to The Dread Duo. In this installment, Joshua and Sophie are sent invitations to join a Gyfted and Talented group. Their friend Milton (who has no superpowers much to his own sorrow) forges an invitation also and the three head off to training camp. Will Joshua be willing to be a superhero? Will his parents ground him if they find out he is on the side of good? And what is really behind Gyfted and Talented? Has Phineas Vex, Joshua’s own arch-nemesis returned from the dead? There wasn’t a lot to surprise me in this second book but it was still a good read and one I think kids will enjoy.
I was really excited to read Flora and Ulysses. I mean, it’s Kate DiCamillo, right? I started out reading this one as a read-aloud to David because he loves animals and I thought a book starring a super-hero squirrel would be a winner with him. He also loves art and I thought he’d love the comic-book illustrations that help tell the story. It may be that this is better read alone than aloud, partially due to the illustrations. However, we’ve read similar books before and enjoyed them together so I’m not sure that’s it. On Friday, it was due at the library and couldn’t be renewed as someone had a hold on it. I’m not above returning a book a day late or putting aside lesson plans to finish a book. However, I suspected David didn’t like it but was too sweet to tell me (he worries that things like that will hurt my feelings). I asked him and he admitted he didn’t really like it or want to finish it. So I ended up finishing it myself out of curiosity.
I hate to say it but I think I’ve realized that Kate DiCamillo is just a little too quirky for us. Or maybe we’re just not quirky enough for Kate. Regardless, there are some books we LOVE. The Tale of Desperaux. Because of Winn-Dixie. And then there are some we just don’t get. This one was probably too old for a 7 year old. The plot is about a squirrel that is given superpowers after a near death experience and a girl who loves comic books (and superheroes) who discovers him. But really it’s about a lot more: the girl’s troubled relationship with her mother, the newly separated parents of the girl, an odd neighbor boy and his troubled family life, friendship, poetry. It was all a little beyond David. But here’s the thing: it was beyond me too. I could certainly understand the bigger themes. But I didn’t really enjoy the story. I feel like the trend in children’s literature is to be quirky. Sometimes that’s good, but sometime’s it’s just distracting. This time it was distracting.